Iniesta with the 2015 UEFA Super Cup trophy
|Full name||Andrés Iniesta Luján|
|Date of birth||11 May 1984|
|Place of birth||Fuentealbilla, Spain|
|Height||1.71 m (5 ft 7 1⁄2 in)|
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 22 October 2016.
Andrés Iniesta Luján (Spanish pronunciation: [anˈdɾes iˈnjesta luˈxan]; born 11 May 1984) is a Spanish professional footballer who plays as a central midfielder for FC Barcelona and the Spain national team. He serves as the captain for Barcelona.
Iniesta came through La Masia, the Barcelona youth academy, after an early emigration from his birthplace, and impressed from an early age. He made his first-team debut aged 18 in 2002. He began playing regularly during the 2004–05 season and has remained in the team ever since. Iniesta was an integral part of the Barcelona sides that won two historic trebles in 2009 and 2015, and his 32 trophies make him the most decorated Spanish footballer of all time.
Iniesta played for Spain at the Under-16, Under-19 and Under-21 levels before making his international debut in 2006. He helped Spain win Euro 2008, playing every game and being selected in the Team of the Tournament. Iniesta was also a key member of the victorious Spanish team at the 2010 World Cup; he scored the winning goal in the final against the Netherlands, for which he was named the Man of the Match, and was selected to the tournament's All-Star Team. At Euro 2012, Iniesta steered Spain to their second consecutive continental crown, again being chosen as the Man of the Match of the final against Italy, and was named the Player of the Tournament.
Iniesta is considered to be one of the best players of his generation and one of the greatest midfielders of all time. Since 2009, he has been chosen in the UEFA Team of the Year five times and has been voted into the FIFA World XI on seven occasions. Iniesta won the UEFA Best Player in Europe award in 2012 and was named the IFFHS World's Best Playmaker in 2012 and 2013. He was runner-up to Lionel Messi for the 2010 FIFA Ballon d'Or and achieved third place in 2012.
- 1 Club career
- 2 International career
- 3 Style of play
- 4 Media and sponsorship
- 5 Personal life
- 6 Career statistics
- 7 Honours
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Iniesta comes from Fuentealbilla, a small village in the province of Albacete, Castile–La Mancha. At the age of 12, while playing for Albacete Balompié in a junior seven-a-side tournament in Albacete, he attracted the attention of scouts from clubs around Spain. His parents knew Barcelona's youth team coach, Enrique Orizaola, and he persuaded them to consider sending Iniesta to the Barcelona youth academy. Iniesta traveled there with his parents and visited La Masia, the farmhouse where the club houses its young players; the trip convinced them to enroll Iniesta in the Barcelona youth ranks.
Iniesta says he "cried rivers" the day he left for La Masia and struggled being separated from his parents; he was very shy and kept to himself while there. He captained the Barcelona Under-15 team to victory in the Nike Premier Cup of 1999, scoring the winning goal in the last minute of the final, and was named player of the tournament. Just after Iniesta arrived at the club, then-captain Pep Guardiola famously told fellow midfielder Xavi: "You're going to retire me. This lad [Iniesta] is going to retire us all."
In the 2004–05 season, Iniesta featured in 37 out of 38 league games—more than any other player—although 25 of these were substitute appearances. He scored twice as Barcelona won La Liga. An injury to Xavi at the start of the 2005–06 season allowed Iniesta more regular starts in the centre of midfield, and he continued to improve and develop. He played in 11 UEFA Champions League games, including a half-time appearance in the 2006 final, to replace Edmílson. His contribution to the team was praised by manager Frank Rijkaard as Barcelona won a league and Champions League double.
The 2006–07 season saw Iniesta's profile continue to rise and he earned plaudits for his willingness to play in any position for his team. In the pre-season, he lifted the Joan Gamper Trophy as the captain of the team after a 4–0 victory over German side Bayern Munich. Iniesta played for the first time as a left wing-forward for Barça in two Champions League matches against Levski Sofia, finding the net twice. In the first knockout stage of the same competition, he played in central midfield against Liverpool. Despite being moved around the pitch by manager Rijkaard, the 2006–07 season remains Iniesta's highest scoring thus far.
With the departure of Ludovic Giuly ahead of the 2007–08 campaign, Iniesta was able to switch his number 24 shirt for his preferred number 8. Despite rumours of a possible transfer before the season, he extended his contract to 2014 on 25 January 2008, with his buy-out clause being raised to €150 million. Don Balón, a member of European Sports Magazines, named Iniesta one of the most consistent performers in the previous two seasons of La Liga; he placed fifth in 2006–07 and fourth in 2007–08.  He also placed ninth in the 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year voting, gaining 37 total points.
At the start of the 2008–09 season, in September 2008, Iniesta was elected the fourth-choice captain behind, in order of preference, Carles Puyol, Xavi and Víctor Valdés; all four were products of the Barcelona youth system. His performances throughout the season were highly lauded, and he received standing ovations both in Barcelona at the Camp Nou, as well as from rival supporters in away matches. A leg injury sustained in mid-November 2008 left Iniesta sidelined until 3 January; initially expected to return to action in six weeks, he did not want to come back until he was 100 percent. Upon his return to action, as a 65th-minute substitute against Mallorca, he scored a crucial goal after just ten minutes on the pitch and completed a Barcelona comeback in front of the Camp Nou.
Iniesta sustained another injury during a home match against Málaga, but returned to action for the first leg Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich, which Barcelona won 4–0. He scored a vital equaliser in the final minute of stoppage time during the second leg of the Champions League semi-final against Chelsea, with a curling strike with the outside of his right foot 25 yards from goal, securing the tie on away goals as the match finished 1–1. In the season review, Un Any Al Paradis, Iniesta wrote, "I connected with that shot with the outside, not the inside or the tip of my boot, but right from my heart, with all my might."
Iniesta's goal against Chelsea sent Barcelona through to the final in Rome against defending champions Manchester United. Prior to the final, United manager Alex Ferguson identified Iniesta as Barça's biggest threat: "He's fantastic. He makes the team work. The way he finds passes, his movement and ability to create space is incredible. He's so important for Barcelona." Despite a thigh injury, Iniesta played and was influential in the game, providing the assist for the first goal scored by Samuel Eto'o as his team went on to win 2–0. In his analysis, David Pleat wrote, "In the end the midfield artistry of Iniesta and Xavi, helped by [Lionel] Messi, was the critical factor." After the game, United striker Wayne Rooney described Iniesta as the best player in the world.
Iniesta received plaudits for his performances that season; Don Balón rated him as the league's most consistent performer. Later that year, he placed fifth for the 2009 FIFA World Player of the Year award, with 134 votes, and fourth for the prestigious Ballon d'Or, receiving 149 points. Barcelona extended his contract by one year, until 2015, and raised his buy-out clause to €200 million.
Barcelona won a second successive league title in the 2009–10 season, securing a record 99 points. Individually, however, Iniesta endured a campaign largely disrupted by recurring injuries. He missed pre-season fitness training due to the thigh tear suffered in the 2009 Champions League final. Despite featuring in almost as many matches as the previous season, he did so mostly as a substitute, starting only 20 games throughout. His season came to a premature end in April after he aggravated a previous calf injury during training.
A contributing factor of Iniesta's fractured season were the episodes of psychological instability he suffered privately following the death of his close friend Daniel Jarque, a fellow footballer, in August 2009. Even when physically fit, he was often unable to complete training sessions or exert himself. After seeking psychological help, he experienced catharsis when he scored Spain's match-winning goal in the 2010 FIFA World Cup final, which he dedicated to Jarque by revealing the message "Dani Jarque, always with us" written on his undershirt. "I did it because I felt it deeply," Iniesta said at the time. "It showed that what is more important than rivalry, your team or your colours is to be human and a good person. I am delighted because it was the most important moment in my career." Regarding the recurrent injuries that plagued his season, he said, "It was hard, but I will start with more desire than ever."
Iniesta scored his first goal of the 2010–11 season during the opening league fixture against Racing de Santander, lobbing the ball into the net from a distance of 30 yards. Throughout the campaign, he received standing ovations from opposition fans, including at El Sardinero and the Vicente Calderón Stadium, in appreciation of his World Cup-winning goal. Another standing ovation came on the home pitch of Espanyol in the Derbi barceloní, with the crowd acknowledging his friendship with Daniel Jarque, Espanyol's captain at the time of his death. Iniesta was one of the three finalists for the 2010 FIFA Ballon d'Or alongside Xavi and Messi, placing as runner-up behind the Argentine.
Iniesta started the 2011–12 season by scoring the opening goal in the second leg of the Supercopa de España against rivals Real Madrid. Barcelona went on to win the match 3–2 and the cup 5–4 on aggregate. One of his best goals followed in October against Viktoria Plzeň in the Champions League group stage after an interchange of passes with Messi. Iniesta played a record 51 matches unbeaten in La Liga, concluding with Barcelona's 2–0 defeat of Mallorca on 24 March. In the Champions League, he ended a goal drought by scoring a vital goal against Milan in the quarter-finals. From there, he went on to score in the semi-final against Chelsea to make the scoreline 2–0, but the match ended 2–2, eliminating his team 3–2 on aggregate. Towards the end of the year, on 25 November, Iniesta was named man of the match after scoring one goal and providing three assists in a 4–0 win over Levante. His performances earned him third place in the voting of the 2012 FIFA Ballon d'Or.
Iniesta signed a new contract with Barcelona in December 2013, keeping him at the club until 2018. As vice-captain, he regularly captained Barça throughout the club's second treble-winning campaign of the 2014–15 season. Iniesta scored three times during the team's Copa del Rey campaign, and was man of the match in the 2015 UEFA Champions League Final, having assisted Ivan Rakitić's opening goal in the 3–1 defeat of Italian champions Juventus at Berlin's Olympiastadion. Their European victory made Barcelona the first club in history to win the treble of domestic league, domestic cup and European Cup twice; Iniesta was among the seven players to have been a part of both treble-winning teams.
During the first Clásico of the 2015–16 season, on 21 November, Iniesta became only the third Barcelona player, after Diego Maradona in 1983 and Ronaldinho in 2005, to receive applause from Real Madrid fans at the Santiago Bernabéu. His man-of-the-match performance included a goal and an assist, contributing to a resounding 4–0 victory.
Iniesta burst on to the international scene in 2001, helping Spain win the UEFA European Under-16 Championship. After representing his country at the 2001 FIFA U-17 World Championship held in Trinidad and Tobago, he was in the squad that claimed the UEFA European Under-19 Championship the following year. From then, he became a regular choice for youth coach Juan Santisteban. In 2003, he was part of the side that reached the FIFA World Youth Championship final in the United Arab Emirates, and was named in the FIFA all-star team. During his spell with the Spain U21 side, Iniesta was named captain on several occasions.
Iniesta was called up to represent the senior Spain squad at the 2006 FIFA World Cup on 15 May 2006, much to the surprise of many. He won his first cap for La Furia Roja when he was brought on at half-time in a friendly against Russia on 27 May. His first goal followed in a friendly against England on 7 February 2007. His long-range effort, hitting the underside of the crossbar on the way in, gave Spain the lead on 63 minutes. Iniesta played a pivotal part in Spain's qualification for UEFA Euro 2008 by scoring goals against Sweden and by assisting the strikers.
Iniesta was selected in Spain's squad for UEFA Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland. Though a stomach ailment somewhat hampered his performances in the group stages, he still played an integral part in the midfield. He played in the first two of Spain's group stage matches and proved an important part of the team, providing a pass for David Villa's second goal against Russia. He was not rested, unlike most of Spain's regulars, for the final group game against Greece, which Spain won 2–1 thanks to a volley from Rubén de la Red and a late winner from Daniel Güiza. Iniesta returned for the quarter-final as Spain beat Italy on penalties; he was substituted before the penalty shootout itself. In the semi-final against Russia, he played the entire 90 minutes and produced a cross that Xavi converted to open the scoring; he was subsequently named the Man of the Match. He played the duration of the final in Spain's 1–0 win over Germany. Iniesta was named in the Team of the Tournament alongside fellow Spain midfielders Xavi, Marcos Senna and six other teammates. Iniesta did not participate in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa due to a thigh muscle injury; Spain was eliminated from the tournament at the semi-final stage.
Iniesta was selected for Spain in the 2010 World Cup and scored the second goal in a 2–1 group stage win against Chile. He was also named man of the match. For his excellent performances in helping Spain reach the final of the tournament, Iniesta was shortlisted for the Golden Ball award. During the final, he scored the winning goal in the 116th minute of a 1–0 win against Netherlands. He earned a yellow card for removing his jersey during his celebration to reveal his message to his late friend Dani Jarque. He won the man of the match award for his performance in the final, which gave Spain its first-ever World Cup.
At UEFA Euro 2012, Iniesta was awarded the man of the match award for his performances in three different matches. He was also selected as man of the match in the final against Italy, which Spain won 4–0. In winning the award, Iniesta became the only Spanish player to win the award at least once in each of Spain's three consecutive successful tournaments. Iniesta was also chosen as the UEFA Euro 2012 Player of the Tournament.
At the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, Iniesta was named in the Team of the Tournament and awarded the Silver Ball for the second best player in the competition, as Spain finished runner-up to host nation Brazil. Iniesta started all three matches for Spain at the 2014 World Cup, winning his 100th cap in the team's final group match against Australia. At UEFA Euro 2016, he assisted the only goal of the match against Czech Republic and put in a man of the match display to give Spain a winning start in the tournament.
Style of play
Like fellow La Masia graduate Cesc Fàbregas, Iniesta originally started as a defensive midfielder, but his balance, ball control and agility allied with his skill on the ball saw him make progress as an attacking midfielder. Beyond his raw talent that was spotted at a young age by Barcelona's scouts, it was his great versatility, work ethic and inventiveness that allowed him to stake a claim on a first-team place at the age of 18. Vicente del Bosque described him as "the complete footballer. He can attack and defend, he creates and scores," and Frank Rijkaard said, "I played him as a false winger, central midfielder, deep midfielder and just behind the striker and he was always excellent." He was used initially as a wide-forward in the absence of Juan Román Riquelme and Ronaldinho by Louis van Gaal and Rijkaard respectively, but made his name as a world-class player in central midfield alongside or in lieu of Xavi, at both club and international level. As FIFA.com says, "It is in this position that his direct style and quick feet can be used to full effect, with the ball seeming glued to his toes as he races into threatening positions. Iniesta is a player known for his passing, dribbling, vision and movement."
Much like other Barcelona youth products such as Pep Guardiola, Xavi and Iván de la Peña, Iniesta is a playmaker who relies on exceptional creative passing, intuition and inventiveness to control the midfield and dictate the ebb and flow of play. Iniesta has been praised for his understanding and interplay with Xavi; former Barcelona teammate Giovanni van Bronckhorst said of the pair, "They have a special relationship, they always have, they just seem to know where the other one is." During his maturation as a player, he has gained a reputation for playing a part in important goals for club and country, specifically playing a leading role in the 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2015 UEFA Champions League finals, as well as the 2010 World Cup Final, Euro 2012 final and Euro 2008 semi-final.
His willingness to play anywhere on the pitch has earned him the sobriquet El Ilusionista (The Illusionist), El Cerebro (The Brain), El Anti-Galáctico (a pun on Real Madrid players' nickname Los Galácticos), El Caballero Pálido (The Pale Knight) and most recently Don Andrés from the Spanish press. Zinedine Zidane also praised Iniesta, stating on the Spanish radio station Cadena COPE, "Iniesta really impresses me. He's got so much influence in Spain's game. He reminds me of myself." Fernando Torres, Spain's striker, said, "We've been playing together since we were 15 and I have never, ever seen him play badly." He is widely regarded as one of the most respected and best midfielders of all time.
Media and sponsorship
Iniesta has a sponsorship deal with American sportswear and equipment supplier, Nike, and has appeared in Nike commercials alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Zlatan Ibrahimović and Wayne Rooney. Iniesta features in EA Sports' FIFA video game series, and was the sixth-highest rated player in FIFA 15. In March 2015, Iniesta had the ninth highest social media rank in the world among sportspeople, with 24 million Facebook fans.
Iniesta is married to Anna Ortiz; the couple began dating in 2008 and wed on 8 July 2012. They have a daughter, Valeria (born April 2011), and a son, Paolo Andrea (born June 2015). Their third child, Andrés Jr., was stillborn in March 2014. Iniesta is a Catholic.
In 2011, Iniesta invested €420,000 in his boyhood club, Albacete, thus becoming its major shareholder. Two years later, with the club facing administrative relegation to the fourth tier of Spanish football, he loaned them a further €240,000 to cover unpaid wages.
|Club||Season||League||Copa del Rey||Europe||Other||Total|
- Appearances in UEFA Cup
- Appearances in Supercopa de España
- One appearance in UEFA Super Cup, 8 appearances and 2 goals in UEFA Champions League
- Two appearances in Supercopa de España, two appearances in FIFA Club World Cup
- Appearance in FIFA Club World Cup
- One appearance in UEFA Super Cup, 8 appearances and 3 goals in UEFA Champions League
- Two appearances and one goal in Supercopa de España, two appearances in FIFA Club World Cup
- One appearance in UEFA Super Cup
- Two appearances in Supercopa de España
- One appearance in Supercopa de España
- As of match played 19 June 2016.
- La Liga: 2004–05, 2005–06, 2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11, 2012–13, 2014–15, 2015–16
- Copa del Rey: 2008–09, 2011–12, 2014–15, 2015–16
- Supercopa de España: 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2016
- UEFA Champions League: 2005–06, 2008–09, 2010–11, 2014–15
- UEFA Super Cup: 2009, 2011, 2015
- FIFA Club World Cup: 2009, 2011, 2015
- FIFA World Cup: 2010
- UEFA European Championship: 2008, 2012
- UEFA European Under-19 Championship: 2002
- UEFA European Under-17 Championship: 2001
- FIFA Confederations Cup: Runner-up 2013
- FIFA Ballon d'Or: 2nd place 2010, 4th Place 2011, 3rd Place 2012
- FIFA World Cup Dream Team: 2010
- 2010 FIFA World Cup Final: Man of the Match
- FIFA Confederations Cup Silver Ball: 2013
- FIFA Club World Cup Bronze Ball: 2015
- UEFA Best Player in Europe Award: 2012
- UEFA Euro Player of the Tournament: 2012
- UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament: 2008, 2012
- UEFA Euro All-time XI (published 2016)
- UEFA Euro 2012 Final: Man of the Match
- UEFA Champions League Team of the Season: 2014–15, 2015–16
- 2015 UEFA Champions League Final: Man of the Match
- La Liga Spanish Player of the Year: 2009
- La Liga Best Attacking Midfielder: 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
- La Liga di Stéfano Trophy: 2nd best player in 2008–09, 3rd in 2011–12
- La Liga Team of the Season: 2015–16
- FIFA FIFPro World XI: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
- UEFA Team of the Year: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015
- UEFA Ultimate Team of the Year (published 2015)
- ESM Team of the Year: 2010–11
- Marca Legend Award: 2011
- IFFHS World's Best Playmaker: 2012, 2013
- Golden Foot: 2014
- Onze de Bronze: 2009
- Onze d'Argent: 2011
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- "Prince of Asturias Awards 2010".
- "Royal Order of Sporting Merit 2011".
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